Recent easing of Federal Aviation Administration restrictions on who can pilot commercial drones opened the door for Intel to stage the Orchestra in the Sky light show in the Palm Springs, California, desert.
A small audience witnessed the live show of 100 drones but Intel has big plans to bring similar events to large stadium audiences. “We have vision of going from 100 to 1,000 over time,” said Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, as reported by The Verge. “I think that’s really what I see in the future.”
According to Adweek, “100 drones, manned by a single operator (and his walkie-talkie-sporting support team) dance across the night sky, changing color in concert and flowing between choreographed formations, like some kind of sci-fi psychedelic Esther Williams wet dream.”
Intel previously set a Guinness World Record for most drones airborne simultaneously when 100 of them “danced and painted 3D shapes and messages” over Germany, according to a press release. Intel also became the only company to receive a Section 333 Exemption for multiple unmanned aerial vehicles per pilot from the FAA to launched its first Drone 100 event over US soil.
On the consumer front, the plan is portentous at best. “For accidental, uninformed witnesses, such eye candy might also conjure fears of an alien invasion,” reports Adweek. “But once the FAA’s rules go into effect, anyone who passes an aeronautical knowledge test every two years will be able fly a drone—and everyone everywhere will get used to seeing bright flashes zipping around overhead.”
Michael Huerta, head of the Federal Aviation Administration, has announced that in the very near future, students and universities will be able to fly for research or education without a pilot’s license and will not need to spend six months waiting before being airborne. Huerta said the FAA is planning to extend looser rules to the general population by late spring of this year.
“Instead of two pilots, one to fly and one to spot, operators would be allowed to fly a commercial drone solo,’ explains The Verge. “The height limit may be bumped from 400 to 500 feet, and drones would no longer have to maintain a 500-foot buffer between the aircraft and any property. Instead of needing a full pilot’s license, operators would have to pass an aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.”